“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The end of a long shift, a long day, a long trip, a long week…how many times do we feel burdened, seeking nothing more than to set down our load, breathe slowly, and close our eyes? The sweet rest of a good night’s sleep helps us to face a new day, clear-eyed and refreshed.
If that’s all there were to it, I suppose we could each retire to our individual sleep pods each night, and resume our spots on the assembly line each morning, completely fulfilled…and completely alone. But we know that isn’t right, don’t we?
We are created to live in community. Our labor has meaning when it has purpose, such as providing for family or serving others. In this sense, you could say that it is those we serve who make our burdens lighter.
“He ain’t heavy, Father,” as the famous Boys Town slogan puts it, “he’s my brother.”
Our neighbors in need often carry the greatest burden, much greater than hunger or homelessness — the feeling of being alone, forgotten, unworthy. As important as our food pantries, shelters, and other efforts to reduce material deprivation are, they are by themselves only like those imagined individual sleep pods. We are called not only to give, we are called to love; to love our neighbors as ourselves, for the love of God.
We are called to do more than alleviate burdens, we are called to share them — with our presence, with our prayers, and with our hearts.
As Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity beloved for her great works in 19th Century Paris, advised, we should “Be like a milestone on a street corner where all those who pass by can rest and lay down their heavy burdens.”
Timothy P. Williams is a weak Samaritan, North Dakota State Bison fan, and National Director of Formation for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.